In Ukraine Crisis, Central Asia Sees Twofold Threat

In Ukraine Crisis, Central Asia Sees Twofold Threat

Central Asia has looked with alarm to the events in Ukraine, where massive protests have led to the overthrow of a Kremlin-backed dictator and the subsequent Russian invasion of Crimea. The region’s autocrats are worried by the fact that street protests were able to oust a strongman in a fellow ex-Soviet state. At the same time, Russia's heavy-handed intervention in a former Soviet republic has unsettled Central Asians, who see themselves as Moscow’s next potential target.

Russia’s move in Crimea is especially salient for Kazakhstan, which has a large ethnic Russian population concentrated on the country’s border with Russia. President Nursultan Nazarbayev has maintained good relations with Moscow, and ethnic Russians generally support him, believing his strong rule has tamped down Kazakh nationalism. But Nazarbayev is 73 years old and has no clear plan of succession. If more-nationalist forces took power after Nazarbayev departs the scene, it could create tension with Moscow and with Kazakhstan’s Russians—a situation parallel to that in Ukraine.

Kazakhstan’s concerns about Russia’s designs on its territory were reinforced by nationalist Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who on Feb. 23 called for Russia to annex Central Asia to form a “Central Asian Federal Region” within Russia. Although Zhirinovsky’s remarks weren’t a statement of Russian policy, and he frequently says similarly provocative things, Astana issued an official response objecting to the comments.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to WPR’s fully searchable library of 16,000+ articles
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday
  • Weekly in-depth reports on important issues and countries
  • Daily links to must-read news and analysis from top sources around the globe, curated by our keen-eyed team of editors
  • The Weekly Wrap-Up email, with highlights of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review